Review: Call Me By Your Name (2018)

The closing credit sequence – that single shot – is a movie, is life, itself.

As far as sexual awakenings go: this is kind of exactly how you’d want it, right? Every aspect of it is pretty perfect, from the idyllic setting and the gentle courtship, to the response from friends and particularly family. And wow, isn’t everyone in this movie, not just the leads (s/o to Esther Garrel‘s lovely Marzia and Amira Casar‘s divine Annella) beautiful, perched exactly on the same cusp of sweet and sexy?

I spent much of its languorous run time wondering about the film’s “point”, while simultaneously questioning such a way of watching this or any film. For what that interrogation’s worth, I think this was simply an experience, the same as Elio’s; how open one is to such an experience, how one might choose to let it in, how one might allow themself to feel – as opposed to, as Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) puts it in his extraordinary soliloquy, “choosing to feel nothing so as not to feel anything” – the lack of control over the pace or emotions evoked, the time it takes for the drunken joy of the moment to fully consume you, and the time it takes for the delayed whump of the inevitable mourning period thereafter.

Armie Hammer is everything Oliver is supposed to be: classic movie star beautiful, seemingly invincible and oblivious, ultimately tender and vulnerable… just, y’know, perfect. But Timothée Chalamet‘s Elio, his slender, “curved” body, his incredible face, tell the stories of a boy yet to tell the stories of a man, but just on the verge. What kind of a man will he become? I hope he’ll always remain that feeling, that vulnerable, as I’m sure we all wish we could; but of course he won’t, as we all discover we can’t. And that, interrogative me, is the “point”.

I’m now curious to read the book – particularly for the passages, images and themes the film apparently shies away from. E. Alex Jung argues that the “general squeamishness the film has towards the wilder, grosser parts of the book” means that ideas, such as the “desire to blur boundaries between the self and other”, are perhaps more subdued in, or simply absent from, the film adaptation.

Further viewing:

Nerdwriter’s wonderful video essay on the cinematic works and niches that have informed Call Me By Your Name is a wonderful look at the lovely lineage of a beautiful film.